Between the vertebrae

The vertebrae that surround the spinal cord are cushioned by spinal discs. Spinal discs — found between the vertebrae — are made of cartilage to not only act as shock absorbers for the vertebrae, but to serve a connective function by joining adjacent vertebrae. These discs greatly increase the flexibility of the spine.

Details and problems

Because these discs between the vertebrae play such an important role, it is understandable that disc damage could have very negative effects on the rest of our body.

The spinal nerves that send signals to the rest of the body must weave their way through openings in the vertebrae, which means damaged discs are at risk of pressing on the nerves. If a disc tears, leaks, protrudes or slips forward, the nerves send a message to the brain, which translates the signal as pain.

Issues with the discs between the vertebrae can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are often referred — referred pain mean symptoms occur in places other than the affected area. Referred symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Cervical vertebrae — This is the portion of the spine that resides in the neck and upper back which may produce symptoms of pain, weakness, tingling or numbness that spread into the shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Thoracic vertebrae — This is the portion of the spine that resides in the middle back — between the base of the neck and the bottom of the rib cage — which may produce symptoms around the rib cage, near the kidneys or in the pelvic region.
  • Lumbar vertebrae — This is the portion of the spine that resides in the lower back which may produce symptoms that radiate through the buttocks, down the legs and then wrap around the calf and into the feet and toes.

Treatment options

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you may have a damaged disc between the vertebrae. Schedule an appointment with your physician to receive a proper diagnosis.

For many patients, noninvasive treatments such as medication, physical therapy, exercise, hot/cold therapy or other treatments may help relieve the pain of a damaged disc. However, if you’re experiencing chronic disc pain and a reduced quality of life, it may be time to consider spine surgery.

If your physician has recommended surgery, we encourage you to research the surgical options available to you. Laser Spine Institute specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery that poses far fewer risks than traditional open spine surgery with no lengthy recovery.^

We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures on an outpatient basis, meaning our patients can avoid overnight hospitalization and have a lower infection rate than traditional open neck or back surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our procedures and whether or not you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery. Our no-cost MRI review* can help you make a decision about the next step on your journey to pain relief.